Let’s say you’ve opened up a store that you think is really cool. It’s your dream and you’ve personally customized every detail to your liking. From the name to the products to the layout and even down to the wallpaper, it’s all you. (For some reason your store mostly sells indie rock jokes, mid-level references to the literary canon, and celebrity puns, but that’s not really what matters here. It’s your store, traditional business models can’t stop it.)
Everything’s going great, until one day someone comes in and says, “Excuse me, but my dog’s missing. Would it be a problem if I left a flyer here, just taped to the corner by the door, so that people see it when they leave? You’ve gotta understand, Higgins means the world to be.” You’d have to be heartless to say no.
The next day someone else comes in, and their son is dying of cancer, but it could be treatable—only they need to raise money for an experimental operation. Now you’ve already put up a flyer about a dog, so you really have no choice but to also put up the photo placard about their human son.
Because this is hypothetical, the world in which your store exists has an almost infinite number of other causes too, and they’re all deserving of a spot on your wall. Even though you try to only give space to the worthiest of issues, it isn’t long before you end up with a whole corner of your store covered in flyers. Every time you look over there you end up feeling depressed, reminded of how terrible the world can be.
But you’re also just bummed, because this isn’t how you wanted your store to be, and you can’t really do anything about it. After all, it wouldn’t help if you told people that, “I support your cause—I really do. I just don’t want to display the poster.” That’d be inaction, and you know that inaction isn’t good enough.
It starts to feel like your whole store is dominated by these flyers. When customers come in to the store, they don’t want to talk about your jokes, or even their own lesser jokes. They want to talk about how terrible that news on the wall is. No one even notices the rest of the place; nothing you can do competes with the urgency of these flyers. You realize that discussing the issues at hand is way more important than whatever you wanted to go on about, but that doesn’t make you feel better. For you, it simply isn’t very fun to go to the store anymore. And whenever you’re tempted to complain about how little you enjoy working there, you rightly feel like a dick.